New Woodcock director aims to raise awareness, spread excitement
As Woodcock Nature Center’s new executive director, Lenore Eggleston Herbst said, her goal is to “raise the profile” of the 46-year-old organization on Deer Run Road.
Before becoming Woodcock’s new executive director in late-January, Herbst had spent the last decade working for the Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra in New York as director of marketing and fund-raising.
Like Woodcock, Herbst said, the Westchester Philharmonic is also a small organization that “appears very large to the public.”
“It was a great experience, doing fund-raising and marketing there and trying to raise the profile of that organization, so it’s actually a good fit for me to come here and use my marketing and fund-raising skills to support this other small organization that’s growing and try to get it to the next level,” she said.
Herbst said she spent her whole career in performing arts management, but has a degree in general non-profit and arts management.
“I’ve worked a very long time with non-profit organizations,” she said. “I have experience with the business side and the marketing, fund-raising, and management of events and school programming.”
Both the Westchester Philharmonic and Woodcock Nature Center, said Herbst, are “all about inspiring kids, families and people to be passionate about something.”
“Something that’s different from my past experience,” Herbst said, “is twice so far over the last two weeks, I’ve had to stop in the driveway and get out to move a turtle that’s crossing.”
Herbst lives in Wilton, a few miles from the nature center, with her husband and two sons.
As a hiker and “someone who just loves animals and nature,” Herbst said, she “sought out the closest nature center” after moving to Wilton with her husband three years ago, and found Woodcock.
After volunteering to help out with the nature center’s fund-raisings events, Herbst was asked to join Woodcock’s board of directors.
“I spent a year on the board and then this fall, when Mike [Rubbo] stepped down as executive director, the opportunity presented itself and I raised my hand and said I would love to do it — I knew I could do it,” she said.
Following an interview process, Herbst was offered the job.
Rubbo accepted a teaching position in the Department of Environmental Studies and Science at Pace University, but still serves as science adviser on Woodcock’s Advisory Committee.
Having started her new position about only a few months ago, Herbst said, she’s “still new” and has been “getting to know all of [Woodcock’s] programs and learning how things work.”
“I’m learning lots of new things and skills that I haven’t had before,” she said. “Things are new to me, but it’s fun and exciting.”
Challenges and benefits
Herbst said the most challenging part about her new role has been “deciding what to tackle first.”
“Woodcock is in a really great place for growth and when you have an organization that’s in a place like that, there are a lot of directions you can head in and a lot of possibilities,” said.
Herbst said the challenge she and the board of directors face is “figuring out which of those directions is the right one at this time” and balancing it with ideas the nature center’s constituents and educators might have.
“The challenge is taking a look at all those things and figuring out what makes the most sense overall,” she said.
“I’m a very passionate person and the three educators we have here are also very passionate, so it’s easy to get excited about everything. However, there are only so many hours in a day, so figuring out what to tackle and makes the most sense to propel us forward has been the most challenging.”
As for the best part about her new job, Herbst said, there are “too many.”
“One of the great things is that I get to work in my community,” she said.
“Everywhere I go, people come up to me and are like, ‘I heard you’re working at Woodcock — how great!’ and then they tell me what they love about Woodcock, or they ask me a question about it, and they get excited about something new we might be doing. That’s been very exciting — to get to be part of an organization that is a great part of our community.”
Herbst said it’s also been “really fun” to sit in her office and hear children outside at the nature center “having a great time.”
As Woodcock’s new executive director, Herbst said, her goal is to make Woodcock more well-known in Wilton and surrounding towns
“I feel like there’s a lot of knowledge in Ridgefield about this organization, some knowledge in Wilton, and a teeny bit of knowledge in surrounding communities and over the border in New York,” she said.
“My big focus right now is broadening the fund-raising and PR for the organization to draw attention to what’s here — this resource that we have that everyone can take advantage of.”
Herbst said it’s important for people to know how passionate the people at Woodcock are.
“Everyone here — from the board and staff to the volunteers people who come here regularly — is so passionate about this place, and I think it’s a great testament to the organization,” she said.
Even though Woodcock has been around since 1972, “it still feels like not a lot of people know about it,” said Herbst.
The people who do know about it, however, are “so committed and excited about it,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to spreading that excitement.”